You may have noticed that I do not get political in my column here at aNewsCafe’. There are other writers here who do that sort of piece far better than I could. In fact, when people decide to comment to my articles with a political twist (which always baffles me, based on the things I write about) the lovely and vigilant Barbara Rice is always on hand to stem the tide with gentle reminders, for which I am grateful.
I’m sorry, Barbara. With all the will in the world to the contrary, I suspect this one might pull in the odd tangent in comments, though I truly hope not. Dear readers, all I can ask is that you take this column how I mean it, which is not as a political platform, but as an appeal to really look at ourselves and our ideas about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
This article is entitled, “What Do We Want?” You’ll recognize instantly where that comes from. Over the decades it has been the call-and-response at many a protest, with different answers along the way. What do we want? Equal Rights! When do we want them? Now! Substitute ‘votes for women’ or ‘justice’ or any number of protest reasons. There have been many.
So, what DO we want? Obviously I can’t speak for all of humanity. I mean, there are probably people out there who crave instability, danger and chaos, and who seek out uncertainty and discomfort, so I’m definitely not speaking for them. But I dare say I’m speaking for most of us when I answer that question with a number of responses. In no particular order:
What do we want? To feel safe where we live, work, worship, visit, gather, shop, and walk or drive. We want to go about our daily business without being harassed, molested, abused, confronted, pulled aside and interrogated, or, you know, pepper-sprayed, beaten and arrested without cause. When do we want it? Every single day and night.
What do we want? To be able to earn our living. With equal pay, equal chance at the jobs we are qualified for, with workers’ rights and benefits, no matter what we look like or where we come from. We want the opportunity to advance in our work, through appropriate compensation and promotion. We want stability in our jobs, and a wage we can comfortably live on. When do we want it? Always, until we retire. Which we would like to do with an adequate pension and Social Security which haven’t been raided.
What do we want? The right to a good education. Whether we live in a large city or a country hamlet, we want the chance for a good foundation, not to be herded through grades just to get us out of there. It would help if teachers were paid well, and if there were enough of them so that class sizes could be reasonable. Allowing them to teach with inventiveness and creativity would be good, too, rather than too much focus on standardized tests and rote-learning. When do we want it? Forever. Kids really are our future, after all.
What do we want? Equal and accessible health care. We want medical professionals to take our health issues seriously, no matter what we look like. No one’s health should be prioritized over someone else’s, least of all because of the color of their skin. When do we want it? Every time we need it!
What do we want? Good government, “of the people, by the people, for the people,” to borrow the famous quote. Honest government (wouldn’t that be something?), staffed by people who work for all of their constituents, not just the affluent ones (aka their big business pals). Government leaders who don’t only speak to minorities when it’s election time, or to pose for photo ops. A government that is truly diverse, represented by all races. When do we want it? Heaven help us, the sooner the better.
What do we want? Not to be disrespected as a reflex, or to be considered ‘less’ by anyone. Seriously, how dare anyone innately feel that they are better than another. Do you like being looked down upon? I’ll bet not. So when do we want that – to be on an even footing, as people? Our whole lives, I’d say.
What do we want? Not to live in fear. Which is different than simply wanting safety. None of us want to feel in danger every minute, whether in our homes or outside. No one wants to venture out into the world wondering, “Is this the day I get shot, no matter what I do? Is this the day I lose a child because someone decides they look like a ‘threat’?” Who would want to have to live like that… yet right now, every minute, millions live exactly like that. So when do we want to live without fear? Today. Tomorrow. Always.
What do we want? Equal justice. No more excuses. No more different sentences and convictions based on race. No more free passes because a person wears a uniform or is in a position of power. No more of ANYONE being above the law. When do we want it? RIGHT. NOW.
I’m sure that’s not a complete list, but it covers some of the basics. Do you want these things? I do, that’s for sure. Know who else wants them, too? Black people.
As usual there’s probably someone reading this right now who is just itching to say, “Well you said it, we ALL want those things. All of us do, we ALL matter.” And you’re right. We all matter. We all want equality, justice, opportunity, safety, security, and to live our lives without being deemed guilty before being proven innocent (if even given that chance before being attacked/tased/suffocated/shot…. murdered). We all want the same chance at a peaceful, happy life.
But guess who isn’t getting those same chances, or the fulfillment of those wants? Blacks. That should be obvious, by the way, but apparently it still isn’t. So I’ll say it another way: you can say that all lives matter all you like, but until that statement is supported by the actions of police, the justice system, the government, and white people, by saying “all lives matter” you’re missing the point entirely. Black people’s lives are constantly under threat, and they have been for hundreds of years, right up until the present day. That’s why Black lives matter. Because so far, they have not been allowed to matter enough. And that is wholly, utterly wrong.
The Pledge of Allegiance which I recited every day as a schoolgirl back in the 70s concluded with the words, “…with liberty and justice for all.”
And ‘all’ means Blacks, too, but we are still a far cry from that being true.
So what do I want? For ‘all’ to really mean ALL. When do I want it? I’ve always wanted it. I will always want it. With all my heart, I hope that very soon, it will be the truth… for all.